Mac option key during boot

Starting up your Mac is usually just a matter of pressing the power button and waiting for the login screen or the desktop to appear. But once in a while, you might want something different to happen when you start your Mac. Perhaps using one of the troubleshooting modes or making use of the Recovery HD.

Using startup keyboard shortcuts allows you to change the default behavior of your Mac when starting up. You can enter special modes, such as Safe mode or Single-User mode, both of which are special troubleshooting environments. Or you can use startup shortcuts to select a boot device other than the default startup drive you usually use. Of course, there are many other startup shortcuts, and we've gathered them all here.

Mac Startup Keyboard Shortcuts

If you're using a wired keyboard, you should use the keyboard shortcut combinations immediately after pressing the Mac's power switch, or, if you used the Restart command, after the Mac's power light goes out or the display goes black. If you're having problems with your Mac and are using the startup keyboard shortcuts to assist in troubleshooting, I strongly recommend using a wired keyboard to eliminate any Bluetooth problems that may prevent the Mac from recognizing the use of keyboard shortcuts.

Any USB keyboard will work in this role; it doesn't need to be an Apple keyboard.

If you're using a Windows keyboard, learning about Window's keyboard equivalents for the Mac's special keys can be helpful in figuring out the proper keys to use. If you're using a wireless keyboard, wait until you hear the startup sound , then immediately use the keyboard shortcut.

15 Startup Key Combinations for Mac – The Mac Observer

If you hold down a key on your wireless keyboard before you hear the startup chimes, your Mac won't correctly register the key you're holding down, and will likely boot up normally. Some Mac models from late and later lack the startup chimes.


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  • 7 Mac Startup Options Every OS X User Should Know.

You can let go of the keys when you see a screen similar to the screenshot below. Most Mac users will probably only ever use the single drive that came with their system. The Mac Startup Manager will update as needed, so if you add or remove bootable drives or devices on your Mac, the list will automatically display the current options. As long as the Mac is compatible with operating system contained on the selected drive, your Mac will continue booting the designated operating system.

The Mac Startup Manager works great if you have a number of boot options from which to choose, but your Mac also recognizes a few additional startup keys that direct it to boot immediately from a specific source. OS X offers a similar mode called Safe Boot. Just as with its Windows counterpart, OS X Safe Boot should be used to help troubleshoot issues that may be caused by corrupt or incompatible software, or to help isolate software issues from hardware failures. Keep holding Shift until you see a gray progress bar appear beneath the Apple boot logo.

On older Macs you can wait until you hear the boot sound before holding the shortcut, but new Macs no longer make any sound on startup. Fortunately the process is pretty easy, if you know how. Read More.

How to choose a startup disk on your Mac to boot from USB

Your startup disk will check for errors and make repairs, and only use the required kernel extensions. This mode will also prevent the startup and login items from opening when your Mac starts up.


  1. A Quick Guide to macOS Boot Modes and Startup Key Combinations.
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  4. It disables custom user-installed fonts and clears a number of macOS system caches too. This can make it hard to attempt a fix.

    Switching to a Mac For Dummies, Mac OS X Lion Edition

    It's called Apple Service Diagnostic, and we'll show you how to get it and use it for best results. This is ideal if you have problems with your hard drive or recovery partition. This includes date and time, volume, desktop settings, and so on.

    macOS Boot Modes and Key Combinations

    Shut down your Mac, power it up, then immediately hit the key combination above. Wait till your Mac reboots again, then let go of the combination. Most Apple computers use the combination of keys provided above, but some models require you remove batteries or remove the power cord instead.

    Recovery mode is your ticket to solving many macOS problems from a friendly environment. Here's a troubleshooting guide to help get your external hard drive or flash drive working again. Later you also may want to restore it.